Award-winning UK health technology firm PolyPhotonix, has given new hope to diabetes patients with its innovative treatment for diabetic retinopathy, the biggest cause of blindness in working-age adults. For the first time ever, patients in the early stages of the condition can benefit from a treatment that has been launched in the UK. The new Noctura 400 sleep mask, emits a low-level light through closed eyelids, which does not interfere with sleep and reduces the eyes’ need for oxygen, which is a cause of blindness in diabetic retinopathy.
Globally, the number of people with diabetic retinopathy will grow from 126.6 million in 2010 to 191.0 million by 2030, and it is estimated that the number with vision-threatening diabetic retinopathy (VTDR) will increase from 37.3 million to 56.3 million, if prompt action is not taken. According to the NHS, 1,280 new cases of blindness caused by diabetic retinopathy are reported each year in England alone. A further 4,200 people in England are thought to be at risk of vision loss through diabetic retinopathy.
Professor Ian Grierson Emeritus Professor of Ophthalmology from the University of Liverpool has commented on the significance of the launch of the Noctura 400 sleep mask: “What makes it potentially a huge breakthrough is that this gives us something for those in the earliest stages of disease that is capable of halting progression and the need for late-stage invasive treatment.”
Traditional treatments for diabetic retinopathy involve laser surgery or invasive injections into the eye, and are usually only offered when a patient’s eye condition deteriorates. The current laser and injection treatments are costly to the NHS, contributing to its £10bn expenditure on already stretched diabetes budgets. These treatments can also lose effectiveness over time, cause eye damage, and offer no improvement at all in approximately one third of cases.
Diabetic retinopathy occurs because during the night, as the eye adapts to the dark, it requires more oxygen than it does in the daytime. In patients with diabetes, who have circulation problems, this need for extra oxygen cannot be met and their retina begins to suffer the effects of a severe lack of oxygen. The body’s response is to grow new blood vessels. However, these new vessels are weak, prone to bleeding and leakage of fluid in the eye which leads to visual decline. In the worst cases, this can cause blindness. The Noctura sleep mask breaks this cycle by reducing the eyes’ need for the additional oxygen at night.
A growing number of patients with diabetic retinopathy have been using the mask for several months one such patient is Sue Wales from Farnham, in Surrey, having lived with Type 1 diabetes for 32 years, she was diagnosed with diabetic retinopathy at a routine eye screening 4 years ago. “I received over a dozen sessions of laser therapy at the eye hospital, but as a keen gardener, new bleeds kept on occurring every month whenever I did something strenuous like digging,” explains Sue.
In October 2014, Sue started to use the Noctura 400 sleep mask, as one of the first pilot patients, and immediately she found an improvement. In the first 6 months of wearing the mask every night she did not have a single retinal bleed. At her last eye check-up in January 2016, it was confirmed that for the first time in over 2 years, both her retinas were stable once again, with no signs of any small bleeds at all.
“I had undergone laser treatment, but I drive 100 miles a day to get to work each day and my eyesight still continued to deteriorate due to the number of bleeds I was experiencing. At that time I was very concerned about keeping my driving licence, and sought out other treatments. By using the Noctura 400 sleep mask every night for the past two years, it has helped me maintain my eyesight. I still have my driving licence, work full time and am enjoying a full and active life without the fear of my eyesight getting worse. I would recommend anyone with retinal damage to consider using it,” comments Sue.
Worn every night, the Noctura 400 sleep mask lasts 12 weeks and costs less than £3 per day. Each mask is specially calibrated with the technology inside gathering usage data, which is analysed during regular check-ups.
Health economic evaluations are currently underway to support NHS Commissioning of the mask and patient eligibility criteria. For people with diabetic retinopathy who are concerned about their eyesight, Noctura 400 is CE marked and can be privately purchased and supplied by an approved optician.